Credit cards – drugs for the weak!

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Nearly all personal finance strategies involve strength, persistence, dedication and time.

Why are credit cards like drugs? They are easy to get your hands on, provide a temporary high, but are bad in the long term and will destroy your life.

Credit cards at their best are fantastic tools for managing cash-flow, minimising interest (not a misprint) and acquiring frequent flyer points. At their worst, credit cards lead the weak in a downward spiral to financial oblivion.

You should only use credit cards if you know you can pay off the balance in full when due.

Let’s look at a situation where a household spends $6,000 on their credit cards each month. If the balance is paid in full from a mortgage account (or preferably offset – will back link in future article), the cost (more opportunity cost in this instance) at current mortgage rates of 4% is $240. If the balance is carried (e.g. one month behind where the balance and the where the interest is charged) at 20% is $1,200 a year. This is a difference of $960.

EVERY SINGLE YEAR OF YOUR ADULT LIFE!

Taking into account compounding and inflation (a couple of my favourite topics) over 60 years is $569,909. OVER HALF A MILLION DOLLARS!

Banks love that you carry a balance on your credit card because the above is the income they receive from a large number of the Australian population over their lifetimes. People love criticising banks over their massive profits.

If you can’t beat them – join them. Perhaps buy some bank shares (unless you think Australian property is overvalued on a range of metrics and Australian banks are holding a ticking time bomb of bad debts if interest rates increase, unemployment increases, wage growth continues to stagnate etc).

Take away points:

1.     With discipline, credit cards are an effective interest free tool;

2.     You should only have a credit card if you have the cash (or a 100% certain future cash-flow) to pay off the card in full;

3.     You should never pay a single cent of credit card interest in your life;

4.     You should never pay a single dollar of annual fees (one caveat – if you can acquire masses of frequent flyer points at efficient cents per point rates – I will back link once I write the article); and

5.     Zero interest introductory rates can be used with caution (but please compare the effective after tax hourly rates of the effort).

What are your opinions on credit cards?

You’re welcome.

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